The Stage represents a large forest of trees whose high branches almost hide the entire shy. This forest extends till it is lost in the distance. To the right, large bushes of wood-like ferns. AT RISE, the Sun hides its light above the wood.
At Rise a coach disappears to the left. Ayrton arrives on horseback from the right and dismounts. Following the caravan, Glenorvan, Thalcave and Robert are in the lead. One wagon enters pulled by Bob who has resumed his masculine clothes, and in which Elmira is lying.
Glenorvan: We’ve marched all day and night and will soon arrive. Your advice, Ayrton, is that we ought to camp in this place, isn’t it?
Ayrton: Yes, milord. Down there’s a prairie where our horses will find something to recover from their labors.
Glenorvan: Escort the carriage and this wagon into the prairie, and don’t wake Lady Arabella and Miss Mary!
Bob: Push, cousin.
Mulray: (pushing the wagon) Pull, Bob.
Glenorvan: Poor Lady Arabella, poor Miss Grant! They have endured so many trials during the month since we left Melbourne, and we’ve been exploring these deserts of lower Australia. (to Ayrton) Decidedly, we will spend the night in this place.
Ayrton: I gave the order to set up camp.
Glenorvan: (to Robert) You must really be worn out, Robert?
Robert: Why no, Milord! Anyway, we’re getting closer.
Paganel: Certainly we are getting closer! We are finally on a good track. Isn’t that true, Mr. Ayrton?
Ayrton: The tribe in which I left Captain Grant cannot be more than twenty miles from here.
Glenorvan: As for the Duncan, we left it at Melbourne to push into these lands, it ought now to have arrived, as was agreed, at the mouth of the Murray.
Ayrton: (aside) I’m counting on that indeed!
Glenorvan: At what distance are we from this place where Wilson should be awaiting us?
Ayrton: Fifty miles at least, milord!
Paganel: (astonished) Fifty miles! Come on, that’s impossible.
Thalcave: The air that we are breathing is brought by the sea. Ayrton is mistaken. The coast is much nearer than he said.
Paganel: Certainly, and, after my calculations I think I’m able to affirm—
Ayrton: (forcefully) And I maintain, I who crossed through these forests, when I escaped from the hands of the Oneidas—I maintain—that I’m not mistaken.
Paganel: Still, my calculations
Ayrton: Are inexact, sir.
Paganel: In that case—it’s we who are mistaken, Mr. Thalcave.
Glenorvan: Ah, it’s time we got there! Through an inconceivable fatality, all the animals in our caravan have died, one after the other! There remain to us only two oxen of the ten that comprised the primitive team of the carriage and our horses have fallen on the way!
Ayrton: Accidents of this nature are frequent in the Australian forests. The pasturage is abundant but they produce a venomous herb which kills domesticated animals.
Paganel: Yes, yes, the gastiolobium.
Ayrton: That’s the one.
Paganel: But I thought that the horses and oxen instinctively avoided that herb, and that it occurred only when, my mischance they got mixed in.
Ayrton: Error! To the contrary, they seek it out and eat it avidly.
Paganel: (wounded) It seems that today my sense is completely wrong about everything.
Thalcave: Alone, among us, Ayrton’s horse has been preserved.
Glenorvan: And that is lucky, because, Ayrton, better than any of us can go ahead and reconnoiter the country.
Thalcave: So be it, but it is not good that since Melbourne the way we have followed was marked by the steps of that horse.
Ayrton: The steps of my horse?
Thalcave: Yes, the horseshoe bears a clover shape mark which it impresses on the earth and makes it very recognizable. (bending down) Look.
Robert: It’s true.
Ayrton: (aside) Does this savage notice everything?
Paganel: The devil! And they were talking at our departure, of numerous escaped convicts of Ben-Joyce and his gang.
Glenorvan: Ben-Joyce. Such a track would suffice to guide him if he set himself to follow us?
Ayrton: Milord, it’s a frequent custom in this country to shoe horses as I do mine. But, if your Lordship wishes it at the first opportunity I will unshoe mine.
Glenorvan: So be it! Let’s rejoin Lady Arabella and Miss Grant—and let’s be on our guard.
Ayrton: (aside) Nothing! Forster and the others won’t come!
Paganel: Come on, milord.
(They leave and head towards the wagon. Ayrton remains behind and seems to look in the distance.)
Thalcave: (who observes him) Is Ayrton remaining here?
Ayrton: Me? No. What’s wrong with him to be always looking at me?
(He leaves in his turn followed by Thalcave. Pause. Dick and Forster enter from the right following tracks in the soil. They make a sign and several other convicts enter.)
Dick: (low) That’s really the imprint.
Forster: Yes, that clover—it’s really Ayrton’s horse!
Dick: (looking in the distance) Preparations for encampment? Glenorvan and his men are going to halt in this place. Finally, we’ve caught up with them. (to a convict) It hasn’t been without trouble?
Dick: Since we’ve been trailing them, twenty times I thought we’d never succeed in finding them.
Forster: Silence! Someone.
(All move away towards the rear.)
Dick: It’s him.
All: (returning) Ben-Joyce!
Ayrton: (entering) You’ve been slow in rejoining me.
Forster: Leaving Valparaiso at the same time as you—we reached Melbourne a week late! The ship we took didn’t run like the Duncan! And then, it was necessary to rejoin our companions scattered in the province.
Ayrton: How many are you?
Dick: Here, only ten.
Ayrton: And the rest?
Forster: In the forest—at least a thousand
Ayrton: That’s fine. Our plan miscarried at Valparaiso, because instead of coming ashore, the Captain of the Duncan remained aboard with his crew.
Dick: But now, by what means can we hope to succeed?
Ayrton: Business is now in a good way. Glenorvan and his companions that I have distracted in this forest in the search for Oneidas, think they are fifty miles from the coast, when they are, in reality, at such a short distance that if I hadn’t stopped their trek in this place, they would soon have been able to reach the littoral and see the masts of their ship. (at this moment, the fern bushes on the left open and let Thalcave’s head appear) I can, in that case be aboard the Duncan in a short time where, at last, I am going to command as master.
Forster: What! You?
Dick: You! Ben-Joyce.
Thalcave: (aside) Ben-Joyce!
Ayrton: A few moments more, I will have a blank check from Glenorvan, and the Captain of the Duncan will be placed under my orders. You, Forster, go rejoin our comrades. Twenty of them will follow me and I will receive them aboard the Duncan. Go, and do not lose a minute.
Forster: Count on me! (leaves)
Thalcave: (aside) First that one—and the others afterwards.
(Thalcave disappears and slides on the footsteps of Forster.)
Dick: And us, Ayrton, what must we do?
Ayrton: You stay at a distance in the direction of the coast ready to attack Glenorvan and to exterminate them without pity, once you’ve seen me again, invested with powers which are going to be given to me. If their resistance is prolonged, we’ll soon return and I will come to your aid with the rest of our gang.
(Uproar off. Voices can be heard in the direction the wagon left.)
Ayrton: That’s the last blow prepared by me which just struck them! Discouragement and terror are spreading amongst them! Leave quickly! Now they are ours! (Dick and the convicts move away) The moment approaches when I am going to become the supreme master aboard the Duncan—my ship!
Bob: (calling) Mr. Ayrton! Mr. Ayrton!
Ayrton: Who wants me?
Glenorvan: A new misfortune.
Ayrton: A misfortune
Glenorvan: Our last two oxen have fallen thunderstruck!
Ayrton: They are dead!
Paganel: Always the gastiolobium, Mr. Ayrton!
Arabella: Impossible now, to continue on our way! What’s going to become of us, great God?
Robert: Well, we are going on foot until we find the tribe whose prisoners my father and my brother are.
Paganel: Who will carry our effects and luggage?
Bob: And food stuffs?
Glenorvan: Ayrton, isn’t there in proximity, some settlement, some farm, from which we could replace the animals we’ve lost?
Ayrton: Here, and in the area which surrounds us in the distance, milord—it’s desert.
Paganel: Alas, yes—desert—unless I am very grossly deceived I who thought we were only a few miles from the littoral.
Mary: What to do in that case?
Ayrton: (aside) Here we go (aloud) Milord, did my horse succumb as well?
Glenorvan: No—your horse alone resisted.
Paganel: Along amongst all!
Ayrton: Well, milord, there’s not an hour, not a minute to lose.
All: Get to the point!
Ayrton: It’s necessary that one of us, bearing your full powers, knowing the paths and the littoral, go meet your boat! It’s necessary that your sailors and your servants come to find us here, bringing new horses, which will allow the caravan to continue on its way.
Glenorvan: Yes, yes, you’re right, Ayrton.
Mary: And this man who will go?
Paganel: Invested with full powers! Why only Ayrton knows the route! Only he can mount the lone horse that remains to us!
Glenorvan: Indeed, but—
Paganel: No hesitation, milord! Ayrton alone can save us all.
Ayrton: (aside) Fine! He couldn’t speak better if he was one of us!
Glenorvan: You heard, Ayrton
Ayrton: I accept the mission, milord, and I am ready to leave.
Glenorvan: I am going to give you a letter to Wilson which will place the crew of the Duncan under your orders.
Ayrton: Fine, milord.
Paganel: (to Glenorvan) I am going to write this letter under your dictation! I still have on my person all that’s need for that.
Glenorvan: Do it.
(Paganel takes writing materials from his pocket and prepares to write.)
Arabella: Don’t make a mistake, at leas, eternally distracted one.
Paganel: Don’t worry this time
Glenorvan: Write, Mr. Paganel, write! “Order to Wilson to place the crew of the Duncan at the disposition of Ayrton and to execute his instructions in all respects”
Paganel: It’s done
Glenorvan: Give me, so I can sign it.
Paganel: Wait so I can reread it since I’m so distracted—as milady says! (reading) “Order to Wilson to put the crew of the Duncan at the disposition of Ayrton and to execute his order in all respects”
(Glenorvan signs it.)
Paganel: is it right, Ayrton?
Ayrton: It’s right.
Glenorvan: Bring in the horse.
Paganel: And now the address—
(Paganel puts the letter in an envelope which he carefully closes. Ayrton mounts his horse.)
Paganel: (giving him the letter) There!
Mary: May God lead you, Ayrton!
All: Goodbye! Goodbye!
(Ayrton starts to leave.)
Thalcave: Stop! Prevent that man from leaving.
Thalcave: He’s not Ayrton; he’s called Ben-Joyce!
(He ruses to the head of the horse and seizes his bridle. Ayrton discharges his pistol on him and disappears to the right.)
Mary: (rushing to Glenorvan) Ah! milord!
Glenorvan: (staggering) Nothing! It’s nothing (falling into Thalcave’s arms who makes him sit down) Ben-Joyce!
(At this moment Ayrton reappears and crosses the stage at the back of the forest.)
Thalcave: My carbine!
(Paganel takes Thalcave’s carbine and fires.)
Thalcave: Oh! I would have killed him!
Paganel: Rage made my hand tremble.
Glenorvan: Ben-Joyce you said?
Thalcave: Himself? I was able to kill one of the convicts of his band, but I came back too late to warn you.
Glenorvan: The Duncan lost, it’s crew soon massacred by these wretches and ourselves, soon at the mercy of convicts! Alas, what to do now, what to do?
Mary: I am going to tell you, milord.
Glenorvan: You, Miss Mary?
Mary: But above all—we are asking your pardon, my brothers and I, for all the sufferings you endured, you and yours, to attempt to save our dear castaways. We ask your pardon for this wound received for us, alas! for the dangers you have run and those which still menace you! The brave sailors of your crew are going to succumb for us, and those who find themselves here, are, because of us, threatened by death! Pardon us, milord, pardon us!
Robert: (kneeling) Pardon us.
Glenorvan: Stand up! in the name of heaven, stand up.
Mary: No—! Let me finish! Here, death surrounds you on all sides. We must distance ourselves from you most quickly! You must turn back on yours steps, charter a new ship and go back to Scotland. You have done enough for the poor castaways, who are, alas! forever lost, of whom no trace has been found neither in Patagonia or in Valparaiso, nor in Australia where you are threatened by treachery. Forget then, milord, those who are dear to us, but who are, after all, strangers to you! Forget them, and be blessed in their name for everything you have done!
Robert: (weeping) Yes, yes, be blessed.
Glenorvan: Your thanks and your blessings are accepted, and here I am well paid for past sufferings! But you are advising me to abandon those who, you say, are but strangers to me? Well, may they no longer be so, henceforth! Miss Mary Grant in the face of perils which surround us and of death which threatens us, in the preserve of God who hears me, Miss Mary Grant, I have the honor of asking for your hand!
Arabella: Fine, my nephew, fine, Edward!
Mary: Milord, I don’t know—i9 must think.
Robert: Milord, I am only a child, a poor orphan, perhaps; but whether he be still on earth or in have already, I represent my father here, and he thanks you, through my voice, for the great honor that you are doing us, and as for me,—I who will henceforth be your brother—oh! I love you—, I love you with all my soul! (shouts from without) The convicts! The convicts
Bob: (entering) The convicts are approaching! They are going to attack us!
Glenorvan: Our weapons! Let’s defend ourselves, my friend!
All: Yes, yes—
Glenorvan: Let salvation or death come, I am prepared now.
Arabella: Fight! They’re going to fight! Ah! Great God! Ah! I’m going to faint!
Paganel: This is not the moment, milady!
Arabella: Well—no! I’m not going to faint. No more nerves, no more weakness. Give me a rifle.
Paganel: A rifle!
Arabella: Yeas, yes, yes, a rifle! (taking Paganel’s) Give me this one, Geographer. (standing ready to fire) Let them come, these bandits! I, too, I’m ready to receive them.
Paganel: She’s a true rifleman.
(All dispositions ordered by Glenorvan are taken and each awaits the moment to fire. The convicts, numbering around twenty, are captained by Dick. The first shots are exchanged. Thalcave, motionless, fires with the greatest calm. Paganel, his rifle in hand, makes a shot of a musketeer. Robert strides toward the convicts, fires his revolver, but is going to be bashed by Dick with the butt of his rifle, when he falls by a shot from Arabella. Glenorvan struggles hand to hand, but the convicts being more numerous gain ground and their circle narrows.)
Dick: Courage, comrades, we’ve got ’em!
Arabella: (shooting) Got us? Not yet, scumbag!
(Stubborn defense by Glenorvan and his forces.) Dick Be bold! Courage! Forward.
(Shots and shouts of Hurrah are heard from the left. The Duncan’s sailors, commanded by Wilson, fire on the convicts.)
Wilson: Forward Clan Malcolm.
(The sailors throw themselves on the convicts who are for the most part killed or take to their heels.)
All: Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah!
Glenorvan: Wilson, you! it’s you! How’s it happen?
Wilson: Why, milord, I strictly followed your Lordship’s orders.
Glenorvan: My orders?
Paganel: Certainly! Written by me!
Wilson: And contained in this letter signed by you.
Glenorvan: What do you mean?
Wilson: Here they are, milord. (reading) “Seize the bearer of this letter, put him in irons, and rush in all haste to the edge of the forest which runs along the mouth of the Murray.”
Glenorvan: It was in there?
Paganel: I knew that honest Ayrton was deceiving us, milord, that we were only a few miles from the coast, and I wrote just the contrary of what you dictated to me. What do you think of that distraction, milady?
Glenorvan: Yes, my friend, you saved us.
Arabella: Ah, Mr. Paganel, now how you’ve expiated many sins. Your hand.
Paganel: Both of them, milady, both of them. And I would join my heart to them if you were twenty five years younger! No, if I were twenty-five years older—no, if I—
Glenorvan: And now, to the Duncan! There are no more strangers, Miss Mary. It’s my father and my brother I wish to find.
All: To the Duncan! To the Duncan!
Glenorvan: (extending his arm to the right) Look, look, Mary! There’s our dear Duncan that we thought was lost to us forever.
Mary: Yes, God be praised!
Glenorvan: (to Wilson) And that wretch! What did you do with him?
Wilson: He’s here. They’re hanging him!
Glenorvan: (to Ayrton) Approach, answer and don’t tremble.
Ayrton: Why should I tremble? Who would dare raise a hand against me or attempt my life? I know where Captain Grant is!
Glenorvan: Well, speak, and we, who are the arbiters of your fate, we have the right to make you expiate your crimes, perhaps we will be able to grant you mercy and restore you to freedom.
Ayrton: Thanks a lot, milord! But to discuss an agreement or a deal, it’s useful to know who, either you or I, is in the other’s power.
Glenorvan: What are you getting at?
Ayrton: I’m saying that several of those who were fighting against you now escaped your blows! I say that they will soon return, accompanied by a hundred others, and that you will be constrained to wait for them, since your ship cannot carry you far from this coast.
Glenorvan: What will prevent it?
Ayrton: What? Question the captain! He will reply to you that the order he received from you to leave without losing a minute didn’t allow him to take on provisions and that you have no more coal in the coal bunkers! The winds are contrary to leaving the bay, and I say to you again, that I am no longer your prisoner! It’s you, all of you, who are really mine!
Glenorvan: Enchain him! Could it be true?
Wilson: (sadly) It is true, milord.
Paganel: (looking at the rear) Hold on! Perhaps we’re not as much the prisoners of this man as he thinks.
Glenorvan: Explain yourself! Speak!
Paganel: (pointing to the back, left) I notice, down their, a small boat.
All: A small boat
Paganel: A small boat, which no question, belongs to some ship which ought to be in sight.
Wilson: Why, no, you are mistaken.
Wilson: It’s a whale passing out to sea.
Glenorvan: A whale!
Paganel: Well, in default of coal, there’s oil, that’s a combustible.
Glenorvan: (forcefully) Yes, you are right! The oil and flesh of that whale will suffice to feed our boilers and make us leave the bay.
Bob: And we will no longer be your prisoners, Mr. Ayrton.
Glenorvan: Well—do you consent to speak now?
Ayrton: No! Let myself bend before you! Never! Never!
Sailors: (threatening him) To death! To death!
Ayrton: Strike if you dare! I know where Captain Grant is.
Glenorvan: Take him away. English justice will decide his fate. Go—and now, my friends, to ship
All: To ship
Paganel: Well, I won’t be sorry to see whale fishing.
By a change of viewpoint, the coast disappears entirely and the stage is occupied entirely by the sea. A whale can be seen in the rear, gradually, it approaches, enlarges, beats the water with its formidable tail, blows in the air, and opens its enormous mouth garnished with fangs.
All three, Paganel, Robert and Mulray, come in from the left in a whaler. Paganel, in the front, brandishes his harpoon. Mulray, in the rear, steers with the rudder.
Paganel: Hold on! She’s just disappeared around the point of the island! Ah! There she is! A magnificent whale!
All: She’s coming back!
Paganel: Forward, Mulray, close in, close in! Attention!
Wilson: She doesn’t see us! [Frank’s note written in: * Where’d Wilson come from?]
Paganel: Luckily! What old sea wolf are you ignoring at the most propitious moment?
(The whale approaches and Paganel hurls his harpoon which lodges in the whale’s flank.)
Paganel: Get back, everybody.
All: Get back!
(The whale recoils—then, after having struck the water with its tail, cause Paganel to fall into the sea, and dives as the same time.)
Mulray: the unfortunate!
Robert: (ready to jump) Ah, I can save him!
Mulray: Hold on! Hold on!
(The whale resurfaces little by little. Paganel, swimming, clings to the beast.)
Mulray: Ah! God be praised! You gave us a fright.
Paganel: It’s nothing. A little distraction which was worth any superb blow to me, hold on. A single hit with the harpoon sufficed! Why no! It has a second in it’s flank! (tears out the second harpoon) Wait—what do I read? “Captain Grant 1877”
Robert: That’s quite recent.
Paganel: “Captain Grant, Balker Island” Bal—Balk—Balker!
All: Balker Island.
Paganel: An island situated two hundred miles from here!
Robert: My father! My father!
Robert and Mulray: Found! Found!
Paganel: A singular man, your father; who puts his letters in the belly of a shark; and who sends his visiting card on the flank of a whale.
Glenorvan: Robert, within three days we will be at Balker Island.
All: Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah!